Thinking Out Loud

July 11, 2014

Church Property Destruction Rampant Worldwide

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:48 am

Pew Research carried a story yesterday showing the number of church building demolitions carried out worldwide in 2012, highlighting three countries, China, Russia and Tajikistan. The article begins…

Pew Research - Persecuted Church

The Chinese government’s demolition of a large church in the city of Wenzhou in April and recent reports of other, similar demolitions drew attention to fears of persecution among Christians in that country. A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that such incidents are not isolated to China or Christians.

[...To read the article in full, click here...]

The U.S. Immigration Crisis

Filed under: current events, social justice, Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:43 am

Immigration Jesus Cartoon

I believe that the US/Mexico border is allowed to ‘leak’ because there are jobs that Americans simply don’t want to do. But protesting appears to make sense when the unemployment numbers are high. It’s complicated.

Does anyone know the origin of today’s cartoon? It was on Twitter last night, but uncredited.

July 7, 2014

The Happy Rant Podcast

Church Clothes 2.5 John Piper LecraeOkay…I’m staying loyal to the Phil Vischer Podcast (and they’ve got video) but I now have new audio podcast favorite.

The Happy Rant is Stephen Altrogge, Barnabas Piper, and Ted Kluck

Self-described as “talking about things that don’t matter,” the latest, Episode 5, looks at alternative study Bibles we’d like to see. (Didn’t Mad Magazine do this premise?)

The Andre the Giant Study Bible
The Zangief from Street Fighter Study Bible
The Tootie from Facts of Life Study Bible
The Other Girl from Facts of Life, The One Who Is a Christian Speaker Study Bible
The Crease from Karate Kid Study Bible
The Dwight Schrute Study Bible
The “The Situation” Study Bible
The Chaz Marriot Study Bible
The “Platform” Study Bible
The Pete Rose Should Be in the Hall of Fame Study Bible
The Lloyd Dobler Study Bible
The U2 Lyrics Study Bible
The Mike Seaver Study Bible
The Super Bowl Shuffle Study Bible feat. William “The Refrigerator” Perry
The Twitter Every Word Is Hashtagged and Every Name is Squigglied Study Bible
The 1986 Mets Featuring Daryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson Study Bible
The Joyce Meyer Study Bible

or this suggestion, “I want a Minnesota Sports Fan Study Bible which basically consists of Job, Ecclesiastes and Revelation.”

They also discuss John Piper’s upcoming gig with Lecrae, hence today’s graphic.

To listen to the podcast, click this link.

May 30, 2014

Save Meriam

Filed under: current events, Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:12 am

World outrage grows; The Times devotes its front page to the story.

UPDATE — Saturday 5 PM — The Guardian in the UK writes:

A woman sentenced to death in Sudan after marrying a Christian could be released within days, according to reports.

A senior Khartoum official has told the BBC that Meriam Ibrahim will be freed following worldwide protests about her treatment.

 

Times front page May 30 2014

May 27, 2014

When Will The Gun Violence End?

Last night I went to bed and this morning I woke up with a sound clip from the evening news playing in my head. It was the father of one of the victims of the recent gun violence in California. “Did we learn nothing from Sandy Hook?” he asked.

The question is rhetorical, and the answer is that to truly learn something is to put it into practice. I personally do not believe that the framers of the U.S. Constitution had anything like the domestic gun violence that now seems to occupy a weekly place on the news in mind when they wrote that citizens had the right to take up arms.

The problem is that changing the culture, and making the legislative changes necessary that father would like to see are both big tasks. It’s hard to change course when piloting a large ship. It would also require major capitulation on the part of both the gun lobbyists and the senators and members of congress they own.

This morning it occurred to me that change on this level will truly only happen at the second coming of Christ. Yes, I know. Not the kind of thing you’re accustomed to reading here, but radical change will only happen in the face of radical events; and gun violence in the United States is no longer the exception, it’s now the norm.

But a day will come when “they will beat their swords into plowshares.” That day will come eventually.

In the meantime, I believe individuals can still make a difference, and it’s not wrong to push for gun law reform.  The day after Sandy Hook, I wrote this.

May 24, 2014

And God Made Them Male and Female and…

Filed under: current events — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:07 pm

facebook-logo-289-75From ABC News (February story):

Facebook introduced dozens of options for users to identify their gender today – and although the social media giant said it would not be releasing a comprehensive list, ABC News has found at least 58 so far.

Previously, users had to identify themselves as male or female. They were also given the option of not answering or keeping their gender private.

User’s can now select a “custom” gender option…

[Continue reading here]

Here’s the list:

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans*
  • Trans Female
  • Trans* Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans* Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans* Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans* Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Trans* Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

March 26, 2014

Breaking News: World Vision Reverses Hiring Decision

World Vision Comparison Question

Is this “New Coke” all over again?

After announcing on Monday that it would permit the hiring of gay Christian employees, late Wednesday afternoon it was announced that the organization would reverse its decision.  At play in the confusion are the people who:

(a) canceled child sponsorships because they opposed the decision
(b) sponsored a child because they supported the decision

Some in category (b) are sticking with their decision despite the reversal of policy today. Here are some random — and not so random — reactions on Twitter just after the announcement:

World Vision Reverses Policy

In my view, this is a week that will reflected in the annals of World Vision’s history for a long, long time. Only with the reflection that comes with much time will we see the ramifications of what they did, and then, why they undid it.

World Vision Flip Flop

The original statement on Monday read in part,

I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue.

Through our many discussions and much prayer, we began to discern some clarity around this issue. You see, World Vision’s mission is not the same as that of our local churches; nor are we a body of theologians whose responsibility is to render biblical advice and interpretations of theological matters. We are, as our mission statement so clearly expresses, “an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.” And it is this mission that unites us—Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh-day Adventist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox, nondenominational, etc.—more than 50 different expressions of the Christian faith represented within WVUS alone. In fact, for 60 years the Christian mission of World Vision has been a platform uniting followers of Christ around the world.

There was much conviction in that decision that now is undone. No matter where you stand on this issue, it’s hard not to be confused right now. 

Update 8:08 PM — Three hours in and Rachel Held Evans is at over 400 comments on this. Definitely the top Christian news story for March 2014. 

Update 8:27 PM — Be sure to read Wendy Gritter’s World Vision: A Drama in 5 Acts. Wendy is the director of New Direction in Toronto, a ministry of compassion to the LGBTQ community.


World Vision in Canada: “In Canada, our situation is different because of our legal and political environment…We do not ask questions about sexual orientation or marriage during our interviews, and we don’t have a lifestyle code of conduct for staff.” Read the full statement here

World Vision UK: “…We are, however, a very broad church and as long as applicants for these positions are practicing Christians and will bring a Christian heart and mind to the role it doesn’t matter what creed or church tradition they are part of.” Read more about jobs at WV-UK.

Related article (published before the reversal): Jamie Wright (Un)Follow, (Un)Support, (Un)Sponsor : What does our response to World Vision say about our Faith?

March 21, 2014

Fred Phelps Passing: A Different Kind of Sorrow

fred-phelpsI’m writing this at 11:30 PM on Thursday night. Some major media outlets have noted the passing of Rev. Fred Phelps for almost twelve hours now, but coverage on Christian media has been spotty. Odd that the person who loved publicity and loved to play the media should pass in relative obscurity.

There have been a few smirks, but not everyone is gleeful. Phelps was despised and really still is despised. A comment at CNN’s religion blog reads, “To paraphrase a famous actress, ‘My mother said to only say nice things about the dead. He’s dead. How nice.’” A little cruel, a whole lot dry, but not exactly celebratory. As I write this, comments there have surpassed 17,000; I’m not sure what the number will be when you read this in the morning.  Similarly droll on Twitter: “Westboro Baptists flying the God Hates flag at half-mast today” (@plyrene).

The mainstream Christian community is mostly shrugging its shoulders. What to say? The question of how to respond is the theme of the few Christian blogs on the two Alltop blog aggregators (Alltop Church and Alltop Christian) that had mentioned Phelps’ passing.

At Christianity Today, Ed Stezer asks How Should We Respond?

…But, today, Fred Phelps learned that “because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God… The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).

At Relevant Magazine Brandon Peach writes,

Temptation to dance on the grave of the godfather of grave-dancers is certain to crop up. However, as a church, we can choose to respond differently to the death of one who caused irreparable emotional and spiritual damage: with mercy, compassion and even pity.

Veteran religion journalist Cathy Lyn Grossman writes at Religion News Service,

The message he spread across the country never took root, and in fact helped galvanize the gay rights movement and put other Christians on the defensive. The image of Christianity he painted was a hateful, judgmental collection of rabble-rousers — an image that, paradoxically, did more to help his targets than it advanced his message.

Experts say Phelps’ ultimate legal and social impact on the American religious landscape will be a footnote. Religious leaders lament the damage they say he did to Christians who preach God’s love and mercy.

Counter response from several years ago

Counter response at Crosspoint Church in Nashville when WBC visited their church, Summer 2012

Jessica Ravitz, in a follow up piece at CNN’s Belief Blog also asks, Should We Celebrate Fred Phelps’ Death?  This is the first of three responses they published:

We reached out to several advocates for those who may have taken Phelps’ message most personally – Christians who are also gay – to see what they thought.

“The words and actions of Fred Phelps have hurt countless people. As a Christian, I’m angry about that, and I’m angry about how he tarnished the reputation of the faith I love so much,” Justin Lee, executive director of The Gay Christian Network, said in an e-mail message.

“But as a Christian, I also believe in showing love to my enemies and treating people with grace even when they don’t deserve it,” he said. “I pray for his soul and his family just as I pray for those he harmed. It’s easy for me to love someone who treats me kindly. It’s hard for me to love Fred Phelps. To me, that’s the whole point of grace.”

The Christian Post came the closest among Christian websites to offer a more standard obituary, noting some of Phelps’ earlier days:

Outside of his work at Westboro, Phelps also earned a law degree at Washburn University in 1964.

Before being barred from the practice for being overly abusive to witnesses, Phelps worked as a civil rights attorney until 1979, where he once claimed that he had “systematically brought down the Jim Crow laws of this town [Topeka, Kansas].”

Phelps was closely tied with Kansas’ Democratic Party, helping Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign. He also was invited to and attended both of Bill Clinton’s inaugurations, though the second time, he showed up as a protester.

A few days ago before his death, son Nate Phelps, who left the movement, wrote these words on his Facebook page:

I’ve learned that my father, Fred Phelps, Sr., pastor of the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church, was ex-communicated from the “church” back in August of 2013. He is now on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.

I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.

Nate, believe me, we share your sadness and sorrow.

Nothing to celebrate here.

March 6, 2014

John Ortberg’s Congregation Votes to Exit US Presbyterian Denom

John OrtbergZondervan author and former Willow Creek teaching pastor John Ortberg is about to lead his congregation, Menlo Park Presbyterian, out of the Presbyterian Church USA, but the church will have to buy its way out of the affiliation. Religion News Service reports,

Members of one of the largest congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have voted to leave the denomination, despite facing an $8.89 million cost for leaving…

…The motion to leave the PCUSA was approved by 93 percent of the church’s members who voted, with 2,024 ballots in favor of the motion and 158 ballots opposed, according to a letter posted by Ortberg. Menlo Park determined that to keep its property and leave the denomination would cost $8.89 million, based on a summary for dismissal agreement.

[...continue reading at Religion News Service...]

But the Presbyterian name will stay with the congregation as it affiliates with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, making it the second 4,000-member sized church to do so.  A five page Rationale for Change gives reasons for both exiting the PCUSA and joining the ECO. The document does not directly address issues of sexuality and thereby makes clear that this is not the central issue. Menlo Park also operates satellite campuses using a video feed, a rarity in PCUSA churches. (A Canadian two-campus church, Connexus, is a former Presbyterian church now part of the North Point ministry family.) 

Prior to the vote, Ortberg led his congregation through a message titled “Immeasurably More” based on Ephesians 3: 20-21

Eph 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ortberg’s bio on Wikipedia notes:

Ortberg has published many books including the 2008 ECPA Christian Book Award winner When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, and the 2002 Christianity Today Book Award winner If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. Another of his publications, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, has sold more than 500,000 copies as of 2008…

…Ortberg earned his undergraduate degree from Wheaton College, and his M.Div. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary.

His latest book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You releases April 22nd with Zondervan.

Menlo Park Presbyterian

Update: Christianity Today reported on this one day later with some helpful background links.

November 30, 2013

Remembering TBN Founder Paul Crouch

Paul Crouch 2

The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is reporting the passing of founder Paul Crouch today, Saturday, November 30th.  Crouch was in poor health and had been hospitalized a month ago.

Christian Post reports:

Brandon Crouch reported the death of his grandfather, Trinity Broadcasting Network founder Paul Crouch, on Twitter and Instagram.

TBN has posted an announcement to its Facebook page.

This blog post will be updated as more information becomes available.

Paul Crouch and Jim Bakker founded TBN in 1973. Earlier this year the network celebrated its 40th anniversary. TBN would become the world’s largest religious network.

Paul left behind wife Janice Bethany Crouch and sons Paul Crouch Jr and Matthew Crouch. Paul’s granddaughters Brittany Crouch Koper and Carra Crouch are involved in litigation with the network.

…continue reading here…

TBN’s website describes the organization:

TBN is the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel.  TBN offers 24 hours of commercial-free inspirational programming that appeal to people in a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic and Messianic Jewish denominations.

1.  TBN features more original and exclusive programs than other faith channels.
2.  TBN is America’s most watched faith channel according to Nielsen Ratings.
3.  More Americans request TBN per Barna Research.

According to Wikipedia:

The Trinity Broadcasting Network was co-founded by Paul Crouch, Jan Crouch, Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker in 1973 as Trinity Broadcasting Systems

TBN owns 35 full-power television stations serving larger metropolitan areas, and, at its peak, 252 low-power television stations in the United States, which are mixed among stations serving medium-sized cities and rural translator stations in order to maximize the network’s reach as much as is permissible. TBN also has several hundred affiliate stations throughout the United States, although just 61 of these stations are full-power UHF or VHF stations. The rest are low-powered stations, requiring a viewer to be within several miles of the transmitter to receive the signal. According to TVNewsCheck, TBN was the third largest over-the-air television station group in the country as of 2010, besting the station groups of CBS, Fox, and NBC, but behind Ion and Univision.

Worldwide, TBN’s channels are broadcast on 70 satellites and over 18,000 television and cable affiliates. TBN is also seen on the internet globally, where viewers can watch TBN programming live…

Related: On this blog, a June, 2012 story about conflict within the Crouch family, conflict which continued up until Paul’s death, according to this post by Brandon Crouch.

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